I have little doubt that everyone of us would change many things in our society if we could. I imagine all of us see things occurring in our society each week that grieve us, trouble us, or make us ashamed. It may be in the job place. It may be in the stores. It may be in our own families. It may be at school. It may be on television. It may be at the movies. It may be something as simple as what we see or hear on the sidewalk.

What changes could we make that would make the greatest difference in our society? There are not one or two, but many that could be made that would improve priorities and values in our society. Typically, the changes most of us would make if we could cause them to happen are changes that have high profile visibility.

May I suggest a change that is not "high profile" but would dramatically alter many "high profile" situations. The change: causing each individual to realize there are consequences associated with every decision, every act. The acceptance of the fact that there are both good and bad consequences that result from every act and decision would dramatically impact our society.

It would impact the "I am not to blame" attitude that is the primary attitude of so many. "Yes, it happened. Yes, I did it. If it produced anything bad, it is not my fault." No matter what happens, it is always someone else's fault. "I" am never responsible for anything "I" do.

It would impact the attitude that "the world owes me." "I am entitled to everything I want. It is my right to have it (or to experience it)." Nobody should have something "I" do not have--if "they" have it, "I" should have it.

It would impact the "something for nothing" attitude. "If I do not work, I should receive all the benefits of working." "If I am irresponsible, I should not be penalized." "If I buy a lottery ticket, I should win 20 million dollars." "The ideal life is that life that has nothing to do--except what the person is pleased to do."

It would impact allowing pleasure to be the highest criteria for human existence. The most relevant question for a sizable segment in our society is this: "Is it fun?" If it does not give me pleasure, I should never be expected to do it." It is amazing how many adults in our society work for the primary motivation of supporting their fun.

A lot of changes would occur in our society if each person understood and accepted the fact that "my actions and decisions always produce consequences."

This morning, I want you to make some comparisons. As you make the comparisons, I want you to realize that your actions and decisions matter.

  1. Comparison # 1: who was I when 2002 began, and who am I as 2002 ends?
    1. The comparison is between who you were when this year began, and who you are now.
      1. Has "who you are" improved? Are you a better person as the year ends than you were when it began?
      2. Has "who you are" diminished? As the year ends, are you not nearly the person you were when the year began?
      3. Is there really no change? As the year began and ends, are you basically the same person--with little or no change?
    2. Let's do more than just base it on personal assumption or a snap impression. Let's look at the evidences (I will have to trust you to do this.)
      1. First, let's consider external evidences.
        1. As we look at the "externals," let's be very clear about the question.
          1. The question is not, "Did I give these persons things?"
          2. The question is, "What is the quality of my relationships with the people?"
        2. "When I compare my relationships in my own family, am I more of a blessing in my own family than I was when the year began?"
        3. "When I compare my relationships in God's family, am I more of a blessing to those in His family than I was when the year began?"
        4. "When I compare my relationships with my friends, am I more of a blessing to them as a person as the year ends?
        5. "When I compare my relationships with acquaintances (people I work with, neighbors, etc.), am I more of a blessing to them as a person as the year ends?"
      2. Second, let's consider internal evidences.
        1. Again, as we examine "internals," let's be very clear about the question.
          1. The question is not, "Do other people approve of me?"
          2. The question is, "Do I approve of me?" After all, I lived with me every day and know more about me than anyone else knows.
        2. Do I do more now to encourage and develop godly feelings than I did when the year began?
        3. Do I do more to encourage and develop Jesus' attitudes in my life than I did when the year began?
        4. In my knowledge of me, am I aware that I am deliberately making decisions, taking actions that move me closer to God now than at the beginning of the year?
        5. Realize this: the closer you get to God the more aware of personal evil you become and the more grateful you become for grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

  2. Comparison # 2: God's desires for me (becoming what I am capable of being in Christ).
    1. Again, this is a comparison between who you were when the year began and who you are now.
      1. In comparison to January, 2002, are you nearer being the person God wants you to be?
      2. Since January, 2002, are you much further from being the person God want you to be?
      3. When you compare the person you were in January to the person you are in December, and you consider God's expectations, are you about the same?
    2. Again, let's examine some of the evidences. The evidences will center in your personal priorities and your personal value system.
      1. Have I become more or less like Jesus the man this year?
      2. What specific spiritual transformations do I realize have occurred in my life the past year?
      3. Can I tell that I have grown closer to God when I honestly look at the things that I approve of in life?
      4. Can I tell that I have grow closer to God when I honestly examine the things that grieve me in life?

  3. Comparison # 3: what I expect of myself spiritually.
    1. The comparison is still between who you were when the year began and who you are now.
      1. This comparison focuses on what you expect of yourself.
      2. When you take an honest look at what you expect of yourself spiritually:
        1. Do you expect more of yourself?
        2. Do you expect less of yourself?
        3. Are your expectations basically unchanged?
    2. To evaluate your current expectations, which of these attitudes toward yourself and your spirituality characterize you most of the time?
      1. "When it comes to Christian living, I am paying my dues."
      2. "When it comes to living life, I am buying myself some hell insurance."
      3. "When it comes to being a godly person, my goal is to 'get by'."
      4. "In Christ, I want to be the 'me' that God makes it possible for me to become."
      5. Which of these attitudes most characterize your approach to the Christian existence?

  4. I invite you to read with me from 2 Timothy 2:1-13.
    Therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
    1. Paul wrote to Timothy from prison not long before he died.
      1. This is the last writing we have from Paul.
      2. He is writing to a man that he considers his own child.
      3. He is writing about things he wants to say, things that are important to Paul as he prepares for death, things that are important to Timothy as he continues to live.
    2. "Timothy, I want you to be strong in Christ's grace."
      1. "Do not let the things I taught you die when I die--share them freely."
      2. "Be ready and willing to suffer."
    3. Then Paul shared three illustrations.
      1. The first is a soldier.
        1. A soldier agreed to be a soldier for somebody.
        2. He does not get himself so involved in life that he does not have time to be a soldier.
        3. "Timothy, never forget who you agreed to serve."
      2. The second is an athlete.
        1. If an athlete is to win, he must compete by rules.
        2. "Timothy, remember that the rules for life come from God, not from forces that oppose God."
      3. The third is a farmer.
        1. A farmer works really hard.
        2. But a farmer also eats the first produce his crop produces.
        3. "Timothy, you will be the first to enjoy the reward of your efforts."
    4. "Do not be afraid to suffer for Christ."
      1. "God will not fail in His commitment to you."
      2. "If you fail in your commitment to God, your failure will not change God."

Allow me to focus you on a truth none of us should ever forget: there is just one person that you can change: yourself. No matter what desire you have or how motivated you are, you cannot change other people. You can only change yourself.

But when you dare to change yourself, by changing you, you will touch many other people. It is important that you realized your decisions and actions have consequences. It is important for you to never stop growing closer to God.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 29 December 2002

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell